. 4
( 11)


especially the north, became a settler colony in which there was ˜˜the
wholesale con¬scation of Catholic lands, the expulsion of Catholics from
the major towns and the banning of their priests and bishops™™ in Ulster
(Ruane and Todd 1996: 20).
From the late eighteenth century, Irish nationalists struggled for self-
rule but when the British ¬nally agreed to home rule in 1912, the Pro-
testants in Ulster objected ¬ercely and they organized the Ulster Defence
Regiment who armed themselves and vowed to ¬ght to remain part of the
United Kingdom (Ruane and Todd 1996; Lustick 1993). At the end of
World War I, the weary British decided to partition Ireland and in 1920,
the southern twenty-six counties became the Irish Free State. Six of the
nine counties in historic Ulster in the north, which were nearly two-thirds
Protestant, remained part of the United Kingdom, and the Irish Republic,
the successor to the Irish Free State in 19495 only accepted the division
in 1998, when it approved the Good Friday Agreement in a referendum.
Following partition, the British Parliament granted Ulster self-rule within
the United Kingdom, and the Protestants dominated all aspects of its
political and economic life and discriminated against Catholics in job
hiring, political representation, the allocation of public housing, and
higher education, and they used paramilitary units as police to control the
Catholic population (Boyle and Hadden 1994; Darby 1983; Wichert
1991). Most Catholics refused to recognize the regime in the north as
legitimate, and when the British suspended the Northern Ireland gov-
ernment in 1972, no Catholic had ever served as a government minister
(Farren and Mulvihill 2000).
Civil rights protests in the North began in the late 1960s demanding an
end to blatant anti-Catholic discrimination. The Rev. Ian Paisley, a ¬ery
hard-line Protestant leader, advocated meeting every march with a counter

The Republic of Ireland withdrew from the British Commonwealth of Nations. The Free
State, as an expression of their hostility to the British, remained neutral during World
War II.

Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

Figure 4.1 Map of the United Kingdom and Ireland

march, and refused to denounce frequent Protestant violence by off-duty
police “ and sometimes ones on duty as well. In response, support for the
newly reconstituted Provisional Irish Republican Army, the self-proclaimed
defender of the Catholic community, increased. In 1970, the British sent in
army troops to maintain order. First welcomed by the vulnerable Catholic
community as protectors, the army lost Catholic support as it engaged in
mass round-ups of suspects, internment without trial, and trials without
Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

juries. As the Catholic IRA attacked Protestant militias and the British
army, the region sunk into a spiral of violence. In 1972, the high point of
the killing, the British suspended the Northern Irish government and
imposed direct rule from London, which remained in place until the Good
Friday Agreement in 1998. Violence continued throughout the period
involving both Protestant and Catholic paramilitary groups, the police, and
the British army, but remained at what John Darby has called a ˜˜tolerable™™
level, meaning that neither side felt suf¬cient pressure to seek a settlement
(Darby 1986).
Protestants and Catholics oppose each other but are also internally
divided.6 These differences can be described in terms of general labels that
are commonly applied and in terms of the political parties within each
community. Unionists and Loyalists are overwhelmingly Protestant and
these terms describe people who favor continuing the union of Northern
Ireland and Great Britain in the United Kingdom. Unionist is the more
general term focusing on political linkage while Loyalists are more focused
on British, and especially Scottish, culture and identity in addition to their
political support for the union. Loyalists often emphasize their connection
to the British crown more than to the government. Politically Protestants
are split between the mostly middle-class Ulster Unionist Party (UUP),
and Paisley™s more working-class Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Among Catholics, Nationalists are those who continue to favor the reuni-
¬cation of Ireland, and Republicans, who while favoring a united Ireland,
have been generally willing to endorse the use of violence and to support
the IRA to achieve reuni¬cation. There are two major Catholic political
parties, the more moderate and more middle-class Social Democratic and
Labour Party (SDLP) that has long renounced violence as a legitimate
political weapon, but not the goal of reuni¬cation of the island, and Sinn
Fein (SF), the political wing of the IRA, headed by Gerry Adams.
In 1994, the IRA and the major Protestant paramilitary groups declared
a cease¬re and since that time, political violence between the communities
has almost ended.7 The British army is no longer visible on the streets and

At times there have been signi¬cant shifts in each side™s emphasis and organization as well.
Whyte (1990), for example, describes a gradual shift in both narratives from emphasizing
an external opponent (the British or the Irish) to paying more attention to internal ones
(Protestants and Catholics in the North). O™Malley (1983) offers a richly textured view of
differences in narratives within and between both communities.
There is some signi¬cant within-community violence especially among Protestant
paramilitaries, increased criminal activities, punishment beatings in both Protestant and

Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

most of the troops have been withdrawn from the region. In many places in
Northern Ireland today, daily life is very ordinary for the ¬rst time in two
generations. Negotiations involving all the major stakeholders, the political
parties, the British and Irish governments, and even the US have replaced
what had been an almost exclusive reliance on unilateral, self-help strate-
gies. In 1998, there was a settlement, known variously as the Good Friday,
or Belfast, Agreement, spelling out new power-sharing institutions, and
shortly thereafter, majorities in both communities in the North supported
it in a referendum (McGarry and O™Leary 2004).
Despite the fact that the new political arrangements provide incentives
for all parties to share power, politicians in the region have been cautious
in moving away from a politics of confrontation. Political competition
still occurs only within each community since there is little cross-com-
munity trust, although the agreement does require a majority in each
group to create a government. When it has operated, the executive
included ministers from all four major parties but, twice since 1998, the
British suspended it when the narrow Unionist majority disappeared over
the issue of IRA weapons decommissioning. Elections in 2003 to try to
break the deadlock failed to lead to a new government and the North is
again ruled directly from London. At the same time, there has been no
return to violence, as the different paramilitary groups know how
unpopular this would make them in their own communities.
Because there are no politically signi¬cant cross-community appeals,
the intense divisions within each community produce a strident political
rhetoric emphasizing how individual leaders and their parties are defending
their own community™s interests. There is a great fear of appearing too
weak in the face of out-group challenges, and a continuing distrust of the
motives of the other side. Many have found that cultural expressions are
one signi¬cant way they can express strong support for their community
and its goals in a non-violent manner. As a result, polarizing issues such as
Loyal Order parades are a continuing source of high inter-community
distrust and vehicles for the expression of each side™s anger.

Catholic narrative
At the core of the Catholic narrative is a focus on the injustice of colo-
nization, displacement, discrimination, and the demand that the small

Catholic communities, and outbreaks of violence in some interface areas in north and east

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

island of Ireland be reunited politically. Typically, the Catholic narrative
begins with the twelfth-century Norman invasion of Ireland that marks
the start of British displacement and oppression of the island™s original
inhabitants. However, the seventeenth-century Ulster Plantation draws
the greatest ire from the Irish and marks the beginning of their struggle
for self-rule. In this four-century struggle, Catholics have a long list of
martyrs, including eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth-century Irish
nationalist heroes, poets who wrote powerfully of their people™s suffering,
the leaders of the 1916 Easter uprising, and the IRA hunger strikers who
died in the early 1980s (O™Malley 1990). Catholics grant little legitimacy
to the Northern Ireland government that ruled from 1920 to 1972 since
Protestant rule meant systematic discrimination against Catholics in
politics, employment, and housing as well as denigration of their culture
and attacks upon their religion.
While there had been resistance for centuries, Catholics believe that it
was only when they began to organize and protest their treatment that
matters came to a head. In the 1960s, the strategy of peaceful protest and
dialogue seemed to be helpful as there were some sympathetic Protestant
and British ears. However, it was soon clear that Protestant opposition
had hardened and there was little belief that they would share power
without being forced to do so. When quasi-state Protestant paramilitaries
began attacking Civil Rights protesters and the Protestant-dominated
police force did little to protect them, the moribund IRA began to revive to
defend the community. The British sent the army into the region promising
to protect Catholic areas that had become subject to beatings, ¬re bomb-
ings, and killings. However, Catholics soon felt that the British were siding
with the Protestants, and the army became the target of Catholic violence.
Catholic leaders demanded power sharing in the North and there were
renewed cries for a united Ireland. There was a British-led effort to create a
power-sharing government, but when a Protestant general strike brought it
down in 1974, the British backed off and instituted direct rule of the region.
For a time various peacemaking initiatives got nowhere. Catholics
attributed this to Protestant intransigence and to British support for them
and as a result many saw the militarization of the con¬‚ict as inevitable.
When IRA prisoners began hunger strikes to support their demands that
they be recognized as political, and not criminal, prisoners, Margaret
Thatcher™s government simply said no and let ten of them die. Her action
then turned Bobby Sands and his fellow strikers into martyrs whose
funerals brought tens, and maybe even hundreds, of thousands of people
Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

into the streets, including many Catholics who were neither IRA
supporters nor advocates of violence. Soon thereafter, the British gov-
ernment changed course when they acknowledged an Irish role in the
North and the two governments negotiated the 1985 Anglo-Irish
Agreement that provided the basis for the 1998 Agreement. In the 1980s
Sinn Fein decided to participate in elections and achieved some successes
although their vote totals were lower than those of the SDLP. The British
inclusion of the Irish government as a partner, and talks between Sinn
Fein and John Hume™s Social Democratic and Labour Party, led to some
Track 2 and back channel dialogues and a gradual reduction in IRA
violence.8 Negotiations were slow to get started, however, and it was only
when the United States weighed into the process, with Bill Clinton™s
acceptance of Gerry Adams™ renunciation of violence, and Senator George
Mitchell™s leadership of all-party negotiations, that an agreement was
The problem for many Catholics is that the agreement has not been
fully implemented because of what most see as Protestant foot dragging.
In their view, Protestants have imposed arbitrary conditions on its
implementation, have stalled on matters such as police reform, and have
consistently failed to accord Catholics and their concerns the ˜˜parity of
esteem™™ they committed to in the negotiations. One example of this is the
refusal of many Protestant politicians to acknowledge the offensive nature
of many Loyal Order parades and to take steps to curb those aspects most
offensive to Catholics.

Protestant narrative
The Protestant narrative emphasizes the long struggle to maintain their
religion and culture, their loyalty to the crown, and their membership in
the United Kingdom against the threats of Catholic domination and
violence.9 Protestant settlement, especially in the north, began a period of
development and early modernization in which the Protestants persevered
despite the threats from the local population and dangers such as the
counter-reformation. Three seventeenth-century dates are especially
relevant in Protestant collective memories: 1641, 1689, and 1690. In
By the 1990s more deaths in Northern Ireland were attributed to Protestant paramilitaries
than to the IRA.
For extensive treatment of Ulster™s Protestants, see Akenson (1992), Bruce (1994), and
McKay (2000).

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

1641, Catholics rose up and mounted attacks against the outnumbered
and vulnerable Protestant settlers. In the next decade, under Cromwell,
the Irish were subdued, and settler rule expanded. For Protestants,
William of Orange breaking the siege of Derry in 1689 and his victory in
the Battle of the Boyne the following year are central foundation myths.10
The lessons of steadfastness and self-reliance are perhaps best summed up
with the phrase ˜˜No Surrender,™™ which Protestants evoke repeatedly.11
In 1912 when the British were about to grant the Irish self-rule,
Protestants in Ulster created the Ulster Defence Regiment to prevent the
change. For Protestants, their story is one of perseverance and survival in
a hostile, threatening world where enemies forever challenge them. In this
account, building a ˜˜Protestant state for a Protestant people™™ as William
Craig, Northern Ireland™s ¬rst prime minister put it, is viewed in heroic
terms, and a united Ireland is a step backwards culturally, politically, and
religiously. Protestants see it not only as a loss of control, but also a threat
to the very existence of their community and their rights and liberties.12
The Protestant narrative portrays a world ¬lled with dangers that can
only be managed through vigilance and self-help. Protestants see them-
selves as a vulnerable small group emphasizing that while they may be a
majority in Northern Ireland they are a minority on the island as a whole.
Catholic use of violence and terror since the 1960s only reinforced this
worldview. There is not only on-going anger against IRA terrorist
activities, but disbelief at those who either expressed support for it, or failed
to condemn it. For example, when the IRA hunger strikers were dying and
there was a large public funeral for each man, Protestants expressed
outrage that so many Catholics who claimed they rejected violence would
participate in honoring people Protestants viewed as criminals.13

Walker offers the interesting argument that emphasis on these seventeenth-century dates
only became politically signi¬cant to Protestants in the 1880s when Unionist“Nationalist
confrontations increased (1996: 5).
Akenson (1992) describes Protestant culture in Northern Ireland as covenantal, referring
to the Old Testament sacred covenant in the Exodus story in which God promises the
Jews he will be their god if they promise to be his people. To do this they must obey his
laws and follow an often dif¬cult path.
Protestant accounts emphasize the shrinking Protestant population of Ireland since 1920,
the Catholic Church™s in¬‚uence over social legislation, and Catholic insistence that
children of Protestant“Catholic marriages be raised as Catholics.
Not only did Catholics hold a succession of public funerals, but Sinn Fein continued to
elect a succession of the dying men, starting with Bobby Sands, to the House of
Commons. The SDLP did not contest the seats not wanting to divide the Catholic vote in

Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

Feelings of weakening British support, and condemnation of the
British decision to accord the Irish Republic a role in Northern Ireland as
treason, reinforce an historic Protestant sense of isolation and a turn to
self-help as a survival strategy. For people such as Rev. Ian Paisley, the
head of the largest party after the 2003 elections, resistance is the only
course. The debate among Protestants is over the basic nature of
Protestant cultural and political identity in a political environment that
includes British and Irish membership in the European Community. In
this context, the meaning of sovereignty, defensible borders, and cultural
identity de¬ned around loyalty to the sovereign and/or religious identity
is increasingly problematic. Some Protestants seem fearful that if they fail
to strengthen and defend the community culturally and politically their
future is at risk, while others express a more strategic political view
emphasizing instrumental concerns around power sharing and institu-
tional development. Much of this anxiety, we will see, is played out through
con¬‚icts within and between each community about the meaning of
traditions and especially those associated with Loyal Order parades.

Divergent narratives
Each side™s account is highly selective and recognizes the other only as an
oppressor or threat (as portrayed in Figure 4.2). Neither acknowledges
the many shared themes in the two accounts (Nic Craith 2002). What the
two narratives do share, however, is a sense of injustice and vulnerability,
but the incidents that each recounts are either different, or described very
differently. Each community stresses the need for internal unity and
consensus while blaming the other for its problems. Differentiation
means that there are distinct dates and events that each community ¬nds
signi¬cant and competing interpretations for those that both mark. For
example, Protestants see the early seventeenth century as the time when
they brought civilization and development to Ireland, while Catholics
describe the same period as one of displacement and colonization. Pro-
testants portray Catholic massacres in 1641, while Catholics remember
Protestant retaliation in kind eight years later. The nineteenth and
twentieth centuries are viewed equally differently for each community,
with the Catholics focusing on the ¬ght against British and Protestant

these elections and thereby reinforced the Protestant view that the Catholic leaders such
as John Hume were insincere and duplicitous when they claimed they opposed violence.

Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

oppression and control, and Protestants emphasizing their struggle for
self-rule within the union. 1916 marks a common date for both that has
strikingly different signi¬cance for each community. For Protestants it
marks the death of thousands of soldiers from Northern Ireland in the
Battle of the Somme, while Catholics commemorate the Easter Rising in
Dublin and the British public hanging of its leaders.
In this context, it is not surprisingly that there is little shared symbolic
space in the region. Murals, often with paramilitary images, ¬‚ags, and
painted curbstones mark off territory, warning outsiders they are not
welcome. Few symbols and rituals are shared and the two communities
differ even in the sports they are passionate about and the teams they
support. Only rarely do the two communities share a common reaction to
events or share a symbolic or ritual event together.14 One interesting
exception is an exhibit in the Derry City Museum that at one point, when
describing events in the early twentieth century, asks visitors to look at
one side of the exhibit to see key events for the Catholic community and
at the other to learn what most concerned the Protestants. The exhibit
graphically demonstrates how in 1916, for example, Catholics emphasize
the Easter uprising in Dublin while Protestants emphasize the battle deaths
of the Ulster Regiment at the Battle of the Somme. It does not try to
mediate between the accounts, but makes it clear that both exist side by
side (Figure 4.3).

Parades disputes as psychocultural dramas
Parading has deep roots in European guilds and religious celebrations
(Fraser 2000b: 3). Parades can be commemorative and celebratory, a
mechanism for supporting the existing political order, or can be used for
protest and confrontation and for ˜˜powerful expressions of cultural identity
especially when that culture seemed to be under threat™™ (Fraser 2000b: 3).
Loyal Order parades in Northern Ireland have been all of these since they
began over 200 years ago. The Loyal Orders “ the Orange, Purple and Black
Orders and the Apprentice Boys of Derry “ are exclusively Protestant.
The Orange Order is the largest of these and from 1920 to 1972, all
government leaders in Northern Ireland were Orange Order members
A few years ago, the New York Times reported on a professional ice hockey team in Belfast
and described how team supporters met only at the arena where the games were played to
avoid learning anything about each other™s ethnic identity, for fear that such knowledge
would threaten their shared rooting interest and friendship.

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

Figure 4.3 Two views of 1916: The exhibits in the City of Derry Museum
include an explanation of how Northern Ireland™s two narratives clashed early in
the twentieth century as Catholics emphasized the need for independence while
Protestants sought continued union within the United Kingdom; 1916 is
especially striking as Catholics emphasize the Easter Uprising in Dublin and
Protestants focus on the losses in the deadly World War I Battle of the Somme.

and Orange Order parades were ritual exercises in support of the state.
Once the British instituted direct rule the parades became settings for
protest politics, expressing increasingly strident anti-Catholic sentiment
and support for paramilitary organizations. This pattern is hardly an
exception and Wright (1992: 11“20) argues that majority groups often
form cultural or fraternal organizations that express dominance and
communal deterrence.
The Orange Order began in the late 1790s, although Protestant
parading in Ireland is far older (Kelly 2000). The Apprentice Boys of
Derry are older; Fraser reports that they have held commemorative
parades since at least 1759 (2000b: 174). Loyal Order commemorations
mark Protestant military victories and defeats that are signi¬cant in
their narrative of struggle for freedom and democracy. For example
Rev. W. Martin Smyth, former Grand Master of the Orange Order and
a British MP, speaking about what a Protestant defeat at the 1690
Battle of the Boyne would have meant said, ˜˜I think it would have
been a catastrophe for democracy and the Protestant cause™™ (McGeach
Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

1990). During the Stormont period, 1920“72, parades emphasized the
legitimacy of the state and were generally pro-government political ral-
lies. No Protestant parades were banned during this time and only a few
were ever halted (Jeffrey 2000: 82). Even after the imposition of direct
rule in 1972, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the Protestant
dominated police force,15 supervised parades and rarely intervened to
reroute or halt them.
The marching season in Northern Ireland, when the vast majority of
Loyal Order parades occur, is roughly from late spring to August. The
over 2,500 Protestant parades each year take many forms. Some are
church parades and include a religious service. There are small local
parades as well as ones that grow larger as smaller feeder parades merge.
Rural parades tend to be smaller and less strident while parades in the
larger cities and towns are often louder, more provocative, and more
contentious when they go on streets between the two communities, pass
through Catholic neighborhoods, or march past a Catholic church.
Furthermore, parades change in form and content over time “ despite the
images of timelessness that surround them “ and should be seen as
responses to contemporary political contexts (Jarman 1997; Bryan 2000).
The largest and most signi¬cant parades mark three sacred days, (July 1,
July 12, and August 12) in the Protestant civil religious calendar: the
Battle of the Somme in 1916 in which thousands troops from the 36th
Ulster Division died,16 the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when William of
Orange™s Protestant forces defeated Catholic King James II, and the end
of the siege of Derry in 1689 when William of Orange™s forces reached
the city and rescued it from the besieging Catholic army.17 In practice,
not all parades are as solemn as the occasions they mark.

Estimates are that the force was over 90 percent Protestant at that time. Catholics had
little incentive to serve and IRA threats to harm family members of Catholic police hardly
encouraged recruitment.
There were many Irish Catholics in the British army in World War I and a third of the
deaths at the Somme were Catholics. However, only Protestants commemorate the losses
in the battle. The 36th Ulster Division, made up of Northern Irish Protestants who in
1912 had vowed to oppose Irish Home Rule by force, if necessary, suffered especially high
losses. For many years, hard-line Irish Nationalists believed that those Irish who served in
the British forces were either traitors or dupes. I have been told about Irish families in
which soldiers died in the war whose family accounts attribute their deaths to industrial
accidents or disease.
July 12 is the most important one and a public holiday. See Lucy and McClure (1997) for
personal accounts of its emotional meaning in Northern Ireland for people in both

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

Parades have a number of crucial elements besides the lodge members
who walk in them and carry the lodge banners that contain images of King
William and other Protestant icons. Individual lodges hire bands but band
members generally are not lodge members, and certain instruments such as
the ¬fe and the large Lambeg drum are associated with these parades. Some
bands are solemn while others, known as Blood and Thunder (or Kick the
Pope) bands wear paramilitary insignias, are aggressive, and play blatantly
anti-Catholic songs. Traditionally, larger parades often include political
speeches from leading politicians although few spectators pay a great deal
of attention to them. Lastly, the marchers and spectators consume a great
deal of alcohol although parade organizers publicly frown on its use. As a
result, a parade that is more or less orderly and well behaved early in the
day might be one that is rowdy and aggressive seven or eight hours later.
Loyal Order parades have been contentious for years, and after the
cease¬res in 1994, they became a major focus of intergroup tension, often
as a function of political developments (Figure 4.4). Catholic residents
groups with close links to Sinn Fein began to demand changes in what
they saw as ˜˜triumphalist™™ and sectarian parades that went through
their neighborhoods and they protested vigorously when the police (the
RUC) either rejected, or refused to consider, their complaints. They
demanded negotiations and argued that parades required community
consent as a sign of respect. ˜˜No consent, no parade,™™ and ˜˜No talk, no
walk.™™ In some cases, the government brought in heavily armed police,
and sometimes the army, to ensure the marchers could walk their tradi-
tional routes. Parading served as a substitute for political discourse and
˜˜No observer of Irish affairs can afford to underestimate the seriousness
of what was happening™™ (Fraser 2000b: 2). In 1996, the British govern-
ment appointed an independent review panel to examine the deteriorating
situation. Among its recommendations about how better to manage
parades was one to create a Parades Commission to deal with contentious
parades, which was made at least, in part, because the RUC was seen as
too partisan and too vulnerable to political pressures (Jarman 2003).
The Parades Commission came into existence in 1997 and the next
year began implementing review procedures that required groups wanting
to hold parades to apply to the Commission in advance. The Commission
then had the power to rule on their route, the size of the group, the time of
day it would walk certain parts of their route, who would be included, the
number and identity of bands in the parade, as well as what kind of music,
would, and would not, be played.
Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

Most parades are not contentious and require no Commission ruling
but about 60“100 each year require a decision. The Commission hoped
many of these could be resolved through informal negotiations or with the
help of Commission appointed of¬cers. In many cases this has worked,
although right from the start the Loyal Orders challenged the Commis-
sion™s legitimacy and refused to participate in the Commission saying that
the right to march their traditional routes was not a matter that civil
servants should consider, let alone decide. In late 2005 the Orange Order
changed their position and a former district master joined the recon-
stituted commission and the loyal orders issued a statement saying
they ˜˜intended to engage with the government on the parades issue in the
New Year™™ (BBC 2005).
Parade con¬‚icts are psychocultural dramas in which each party™s core
narrative is played out and demands about the present are couched in
terms of the past. The unfolding events invoke intense feelings of threat
that produce a widespread need to defend the group™s symbols and rituals
(North 1997: 41“52). Each side™s defensive moves are viewed as offensive
ones by the other community, which then responds in kind “ a classic
escalatory spiral (Jervis 1976). As Bryan says, ˜˜Orange parades are ritual
events and are cited by both those inside and outside the community as
pivotal to local Protestant ˜tradition™, de¬ning the ethnic boundary
between Protestant and Catholic communities™™ (Bryan 1997: 375).
˜˜Much of their power comes from their ability to give identity and his-
torical meaning to the world™™ (Bryan 1997: 392). Many Protestants
contend that parades are simply expressions of faith and heritage while
ignoring features of them that are so problematic to nationalists.18
Catholics link Loyalist parades with powerful, negative, symbols asso-
ciated with colonization, discrimination, and humiliation. As a result,
confrontations are regarded in win-lose terms and a middle ground is
hard to ¬nd as each side selectively emphasizes its own account while
ignoring that of the other.
Parade con¬‚icts can be examined as recurring psychocultural dramas
that begin with a proposed parade to which Republicans object. Crises

˜˜Parades are very much part of the Orange tradition and heritage as two hundred years
ago the founding fathers decided that parades were an appropriate medium to witness for
their faith and to celebrate their cultural heritage . . . The Flags and Banners are full of
religious, cultural and political symbolism showing biblical scenes, famous people or
events in history and in themselves portray the rich cultural heritage of our people in
colorful picture form™™ (www.grandorange.org.uk/parades/tradition_parades.html).

Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

build as the authorities consider a contentious parade and escalate as each
side makes its public case and mobilizes supporters. Appeals emphasize
competing rights and the mutually exclusive rhetoric evokes powerful
images of struggle, resistance, historical suffering, and identity from each
group™s core narratives.
In some cases, the Parades Commission makes a decision that the
parties accept, at least tacitly, and a parade takes place but there is some
form of symbolic, but non-violent, protest.19 The weakness, or even
absence, of a binding authority that the contending parties recognize as
legitimate to resolve such disputes means that in highly contentious
situations, redressive action requires symbolic and ritual steps as part of
any successful outcome. However, Northern Ireland lacks shared insti-
tutions capable of producing mutually acceptable outcomes. For many
years, the Nationalist community had no faith in the security forces “ the
police and the British army “ to control the marchers™ abusive behaviors,
while the Orange Order refused to talk to residents™ groups or deal with
the Parades Commission since they believed it had no right to restrict the
expression of their heritage. In this context, there are no settlements of
differences, only imposed decisions, ritual repetition of stalemated con-
frontations, and all too infrequent outcomes that rede¬ne parading in a
way that is tolerable to both the Loyal Orders and nationalists.
Many psychocultural dramas arising from parades disputes do not
effectively invoke redressive mechanisms, and remain stuck in the crisis
stage; in Portadown, there is a yearly ritual replay of the stalemate.
However, in Derry, wider community involvement, negotiations, and a
creative leadership led to symbolic and ritual redress that moved the
parties beyond confrontation and toward some change in the city™s
symbolic landscape.

Portadown: ritual stalemate
To explore parades disputes as recurring psychocultural dramas consider
Portadown, a small town south of Belfast near where the Orange Order
was founded, that has since the 1980s been the site of some of the region™s
most contentious parade disputes. In 1985 and 1986 there were six major

Even non-violent protests around parades carry a threat of violence when angry crowds
gather, in part because protest and parade organizers have incomplete control over them
(Lee Smithey, personal communication).

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

riots and many violent incidents associated with the Orange Order
parades when the RUC rerouted the July parades commemorating the
Battle of the Somme away from a narrow road through a Catholic
nationalist working-class area (Bryan 1997: 374“75).
Since 1995, there has been a series of yearly psychocultural dramas
surrounding the Portadown parade. On the ¬rst Sunday of July, the
Portadown Loyal Orange Order District No. 1 begins its Somme
Commemoration parade around 10 a.m. at its Lodge on Carleton Street;
it takes about an hour and ¬fteen minutes to reach the Drumcree Church
a little less than 3 miles away, just outside the small town. At the church,
there is a religious service and when it concludes shortly before 1 p.m.,
tradition calls for the marchers to proceed back to their Lodge on a route
that includes the Garvaghy Road, once a country lane and now running
next to a housing estate ¬lled with Catholic residents.
This short stretch of road became the center of intense, sometimes
violent, con¬‚ict that produced yearly psychocultural dramas. From 1995
to 1997, Catholics protested this part of the parade route, and the yearly
crisis mounted as Protestants evoked images of earlier sieges they had
endured. Each year there was escalation, protest, and violence as the
RUC would ¬rst rule for the Catholics, and hard-line Orange Order
members and their supporters burned businesses and cars, and clashed
with police to defend what they saw as their inalienable right to ˜˜march
the King™s highway™™ following their service at Drumcree Church.20 The
police would then reverse their decision fearing more Protestant
violence. Catholics would respond with their own protests and rioting
when the police cleared protesters from the Garvaghy Road and allowed
the Orangemen to walk the entire route. Catholics felt betrayed when
the police reversed their decision and when, as in 1995, prominent
Protestant politicians, including David Trimble and Ian Paisley, mar-
ched in the front of the procession, they again experienced Protestant
These outcomes were hardly effective con¬‚ict management. In 1998
following the Good Friday Agreement and its rati¬cation, the newly
created Parades Commission refused to let the Orange Order march
on the Garvaghy Road unless they ¬rst engaged in dialogue with the

On the Portadown Lodge™s website Martin Luther King is quoted in defense of the right
to freedom of assembly and speech. There is no quote from him, however, concerning the
unacceptability of violence (http://www.portadowndistrictlolno1.co.uk/).

Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

residents™ association. Thousands of Orangemen and their allies gathered
in Drumcree hoping, once again, they could force a reversal of the original
decision. This time, however, when on the eve of the march the house of a
Protestant man and his Catholic wife some miles away in Ballymoney was
¬rebombed, killing her three children from a previous marriage, the fervor
of the protesters dissipated and the ban stayed in place. Nevertheless, a
hard core of protesters camped out next to Drumcree church, unwilling to
call off their protest and vowing they would not leave until they could
complete their march. The powerful yearly Drumcree psychocultural
dramas gained the full attention of the region and beyond, evoking strong
feelings from each community and displacing other concerns. In 1998, for
example, the parade con¬‚ict clearly delayed, and distracted from, efforts to
implement the recent Good Friday Agreement. In Portadown™s psycho-
cultural dramas, the movement from crisis to redressive mechanisms never
occurred and the crisis rested unresolved in 2006 although its intensity
had signi¬cantly diminished ( Jarman 2003).
The Orange Order recognized that it would be held responsible if
there were major violent incidents, and its protests became more and
more ritualized after 1998. The Parades Commission did not alter its
ruling on the Portadown Lodge™s requests for its July 12 parades or
those for any of the other dates when the proposed route included the
Garvaghy Road. The Parades Commission made it clear that the Orange
Order would ¬rst have to engage in dialogue and genuine communica-
tion with the local community. For years, in an almost scripted manner,
the Orange Order continued to apply to the Parades Commission to
return from Drumcree on the Garvaghy Road following the church
service, and the Residents™ Association protested that nothing had
changed and that there had been no negotiations. Each July, the
Commission banned the part of the march on the Garvaghy Road and
the security forces braced for violence, erecting barbed wire barriers,
¬‚ooding a local stream to turn it into a moat, and building a steel and
concrete barrier.21 The Orangemen responded with a symbolic handful
of marchers who proceeded to the barrier, handed the police a letter of
protest, and delivered angry speeches, after which they turned back. At
the same time, there would be shouting, violent threats and shoving that
marked these ritual events.

The full text of the commission™s rulings are found on their website (www.parades

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

In the face of the on-going stalemate over the Portadown parade itself,
there has been some change in the context and the con¬‚ict over parading.
The violence from the Orange Order™s supporters has been widely
condemned and there has been increasing popular acceptance of the
Parades Commission™s insistence that there has to be dialogue between
the parties. The Orange Order seems more isolated and weaker than ever
(Bryan 2001; Jarman 2003). It is possible to view both Protestants™ and
Catholics™ shock at the death of the three children, and the powerful,
common reactions to the large car bomb planted by an IRA splinter
group in the town of Omagh in August 1998, as a shared symbolic
response that emphasized common values, especially the rejection of
violence. Were these responses effective as redressive mechanisms? Not
by themselves, but they were signi¬cant factors in changing the context of
the con¬‚ict following the political agreement reached a few months
before. It is reasonable to hypothesize that what the responses did was to
isolate the perpetrators of violence on both sides more effectively than
was possible in the past and underline values that had widespread cross-
community support. Certainly since 1999 there were louder voices in the
Protestant community calling for non-violent protest, including impor-
tant church leaders insisting that Orangemen adhere to good behavior
pledges in order to attend church services. Protestant church and political
leaders realized that another violent confrontation would not serve their
Despite numerous efforts of various third parties including politicians
and professional mediators to facilitate dialogue, there has been no set-
tlement in Portadown to date. Each party settled into a repetitive ritual
with assigned roles that recreated the same stalemate each year. The
Parades Commission and other third parties sought to change the situa-
tion through direct or indirect negotiations, making it clear that without
genuine engagement between the disputants, there would be no marching
on the Garvaghy Road. The Commission explicitly de¬ned the elements
of engagement as communication with no preconceived outcomes; lis-
tening to and trying to understand the other™s concerns; showing respect
to the other by taking their concerns seriously; being willing to com-
municate their own legitimate concerns clearly; focusing on issues that are
capable of being addressed by the parties concerned; demonstrating a
commitment to resolving the problem and addressing legitimate con-
cerns, preferably within a target timetable; being represented by people
with the authority to speak for the protagonists; and demonstrating a
Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

willingness to consider some form of third party intervention, such
as mediation, if direct dialogue is not possible.22
In 2002 there was again violence when the police tried to deescalate the
situation by decreasing their presence at the scene. However, following the
march, after the chief security of¬cer at the barrier was handed the ˜˜tra-
ditional™™ letter of protest, a group of protesting Orange Order members
and their supporters forced open the gates and began throwing stones at the
police. They were ¬nally repulsed when the army brought in a larger barrier
blocking the road and the police used water cannon to disperse the pro-
testers. In the melee, two dozen police and several protesters were injured.
Orange Order leaders condemned the violence, quickly realizing the public
relations disaster it created, even among Protestants. As the Protestant
Belfast Telegraph opined, ˜˜If the Drumcree stand-off has proved anything
over the years, it is that nobody wins when peaceful protest degenerates into
violence and disorder. Indeed one of the greatest casualties of the dispute
has been the standing of the Order itself ™™ (Belfast Telegraph, 2003).
Perhaps as a result, since 2003 the marching season has had an entirely
different tone. In Portadown and elsewhere, there was signi¬cant dees-
calation in the rhetoric and provocation from all sides and the police
presented a ¬rm, but less overwhelming, presence; and many parades that
had been the sites of confrontations in the past, including the Tour of the
North in Belfast, and one in the Spring¬eld Road area in West Belfast
were relatively trouble free. The 2003 July 12 parades, in which perhaps
60,000 marchers and 800 bands participated in some 90 Orange district
parades, were the most peaceful in a decade (Keenan 2003). The Irish
Times reported a mood change in Portadown, ˜˜The local lodge with a
membership of 1500 could only muster 600 marchers after it was joined
by two other Orange lodges nearby™™ and the number of spectators was
down as well (Irish Times 2003a). In addition, there was no paramilitary
presence, security forces were, for the most part, at a discreet distance
from the marchers, and Garvaghy Road residents did not gather.23 At the
police barrier, the Orangemen handed their usual letter of protest to the
police, but unlike past years when they remained to engage in in¬‚am-
matory speechmaking, this time they walked back up the hill where the
deputy district master delivered a short address as the crowd dispersed. In
Parades Commission Determination June 30, 2003: www.paradescommission.org/.
It is not clear whether the Orange Order actively discouraged the paramilitaries and
troublemakers from previous years or whether this resulted from uncertainties and the
political dynamics within the paramilitaries themselves.

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

a press conference following the parade, the Portadown Lodge™s
spokesperson David Jones emphasized the Lodge™s willingness to hold
direct talks and suggested that some kind of civic forum might build trust
in stages that could lead to a consensus. Leading Catholic politicians and
Protestant church leaders, including Church of Ireland primate, Arch-
bishop Robin Eames, welcomed the change in atmosphere, and expressed
hope that the crisis might soon end.
What was especially apparent was that unlike the 1920“72 period when
July 12 was the time to celebrate Protestant victories and to express
Protestant unity, the day has been transformed into one of protest,
opposition, and division, revealing severe differences with the British
government and political differences within Unionism. The titular head of
unionism in 2003, David Trimble, the head of the Ulster Unionist Party
and an Orangeman, was nowhere to be seen and his party opponents
Jeffrey Donaldson and Rev. Martin Smyth, a former head of the Orange
Order, offered loud and critical assessments of the Belfast Agreement,
British government policy, and Trimble™s leadership.24 A year later, the
political situation had shifted, following the 2003 elections. Ian Paisley™s
DUP was now the dominant Protestant party and Sinn Fein the largest
Catholic one. Despite their militant rhetoric, however, neither endorsed a
return to violence.
For now, Orange parades continue to serve as a focus for Protestant
political resistance. At the same time, there is a recognition that the order is
losing members and public support and interest in its parades is dimin-
ishing. The close association with paramilitary symbols and certain bands
makes some people more reluctant to attend parades and makes the events
less of a family event than they were in the past. The changes in the parades
and reactions to them after the violence in 1996 and 2002 suggests that
there are times when the parade con¬‚icts move independently of the
political process and provide opportunities for new initiatives in dead-
locked situations, as we see in the case of parade con¬‚icts in Derry dis-
cussed below. The Portadown parades have been exacerbaters, not just
re¬‚ectors, of con¬‚ict, emphasizing mutually exclusive positions and com-
peting narratives. At the same time, the evolution of parades con¬‚icts since
1998 has channeled the disagreements into a set of exchanges in which all
sides have moved away from violent confrontation into a more ritualized

On the Ulster Unionist Council 120 of the 860 or so seats are reserved for the Orange
Order, and historically a far higher proportion of UUP elected of¬cials are in the Order.

Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

expression of differences. In the week prior to Drumcree each year, there
have been press reports of a possible brokered agreement between the
Residents™ Association and the Orange Order that would allow the parade
to pass on the Garvaghy Road. It is hard to say how genuine these offers
have been, although it is clear that the atmosphere is now very different
and the Orange Order recognizes at some level that if they ever want to
parade on the Garvaghy Road again, some negotiation will have to take
place. Perhaps the reconstituted Parades Commission that for the ¬rst
time includes an Orange Order member is the breakthrough that will
¬nally lead to a negotiated settlement in Portadown.

Derry/Londonderry: ritual rede¬nition
Interestingly, in Londonderry/Derry, Northern Ireland™s second largest
city, the psychocultural dramas arising from the parades disputes during
the same period produced more effective redressive mechanisms that
resulted in far more constructive outcomes than in Portadown (Jarman
2003; Kelly and Nan 1998:50“61). In Derry, there are Orange Order par-
ades, but the most signi¬cant ones in the city are those that the Apprentice
Boys of Derry hold on August 12 and in December to mark the beginning
and the conclusion of the Siege of Derry in 1689; the siege ended when
William of Orange™s forces reached the city and liberated the Protestant
population inside. For many years, a central element in their parade was a
tour of the city™s walls that included a portion overlooking the Catholic
Bogside, then located at the base of the walls, where on occasion marchers
would throw coins and other objects down into the area. In addition,
Mall Wall, where the parade assembled, overlooked the Bogside, particularly
Naylor™s Row, and the banners and music could be seen and heard by the area™s
inhabitants. It was not a spectacle they welcomed, and led to the tradition whereby
Bogside residents set their chimneys on ¬re to incommode the marchers, relying
on the prevailing wind to carry the smoke toward the parade on the walls.
(Fraser 2000c: 176)

The long history of parades in Derry includes both Protestant and
Catholic parades. In the late 1960s the Northern Ireland Civil Rights
Association (NICRA) organized marches in and around Derry to protest
discrimination against Catholics and when the minister of home affairs
prohibited a civil rights march and an Apprentice Boys parade in October
1968, rioting broke out and the ˜˜Troubles™™ began. The next spring police

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

followed Catholic rioters into the Bogside and beat Samuel Devenney, a
local resident, who died a few months later; perhaps 30,000 people par-
ticipated in his funeral procession (Fraser, 2000c: 179). The July and
August 1969 Loyal Order parades provided more occasions for sectarian
confrontations and rioting that led to the ˜˜Battle of the Bogside™™ pitting
the RUC against the Republicans. Perhaps the single best-known Derry
parade was not a Loyal Order parade, but a civil rights protest on January
30, 1972 that ended with British paratroopers killing fourteen unarmed
men in what became known as ˜˜Bloody Sunday.™™ Apprentice Boys Relief
of Derry parades continued in various forms over the next two decades
although the parade could no longer walk the walls since the British army
occupied them until 1994. Tension between the Republicans and the small
Protestant community that remained within the old city remained high.25
With the IRA and Protestant paramilitary cease¬res in 1994, the RUC
permitted some of the participants in the December 1994 Apprentice
Boys Relief of Derry parade to march on a section of the walls for the ¬rst
time since 1969. In 1995, the psychocultural drama over parades in Derry
began when the Apprentice Boys petitioned that for their August 15
parade they be permitted to walk the entire circumference of the city™s
walls as they had done in the past. Tensions were still high, in part
because of Drumcree a month earlier (Fraser 2000c: 185), and in 1995 and
1996 parades were often the key triggering mechanisms that provoked
severe sectarian clashes. This was not terribly surprising given the history
of violence in the city since the late 1960s. The Bogside Residents Group
(BRG) strongly protested against the parades; there was rioting and, for a
time, the con¬‚ict resembled Portadown. However, over the next few
years, multiparty negotiations and rede¬nition of the August 15 parade
within the context of a broader cultural festival in Derry provided
important redressive mechanisms. How this occurred is worth describing
in some detail.

Derry, like Belfast, is more segregated than it was in 1969. Many Protestants moved from
the areas in and around the old city across the River Foyle to the Waterside and only one
small Protestant neighborhood, the Fountain, remains. In addition, it is worth noting that
in Derry, as in Belfast, a visitor quickly learns how territory is marked. Republican and
Loyalist murals have distinctly different themes that are easy to recognize. Curbstones are
painted each year before the marching season with the different national colors. In 2002,
another signi¬cant marker of territory and differentiation appeared in Derry as
Palestinian ¬‚ags ¬‚ew in the Catholic Bogside, which encouraged Protestants to hang
Israeli ¬‚ags in the Fountain and Waterside.

Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

BRG members occupied sections of the walls in the days before the
August 1995 parade following unsuccessful negotiations, saying they were
not prepared for a triumphalist march overlooking the Bogside (Fraser
2000c: 185). On the morning of the parade, the RUC removed the pro-
testers forcefully and some of the Apprentice Boys paraded the full circuit
of the walls. Demonstrators a few blocks away turned their backs in silent
protest. However, later in the day there were confrontations in the city,
and rioting broke out that continued for ¬ve hours (Fraser 2000b: 186;
Kelly and Nan 1998: 50“51). The next year saw even more violence
following the Drumcree standoff in July, when there were three nights of
rioting in Derry. There was, however, hope of a breakthrough when civic
leaders and local MP John Hume arranged for negotiations in which both
the Apprentice Boys and the BRG took part. The sticking point was the
BRG insistence that any agreement concerning Derry also contain limits
to parading in other nationalist areas of Northern Ireland. Issues such as
the time of the march on the walls, the number of marchers, who would
march, bands accompanying the marchers, and the music they would
play were discussed productively before the talks eventually collapsed.
The government then banned any parades on the walls in August. The
march was held in other parts of the city (Kelly and Nan, 1998: 55“56),
and the head of the Apprentice Boys, Alistair Simpson, announced they
would walk the walls ˜˜at a time of their own choosing,™™ and while there
was some rioting it was less severe than in July. In October, the
Apprentice Boys marched the walls without incident with BRG leaders
protesting. ˜˜After completing their circuit, the Apprentice Boys dispersed
after singing ˜God Save the Queen™ while BRG head Donncha Mac
Niallais made a speech denouncing the parade as sectarian and offensive™™
(Fraser 2000c: 188).
In 1997 the Apprentice Boys refused to enter into direct negotiations
with the BRG but did agree to participate in ˜˜proximity talks™™ “ a form of
shuttle diplomacy in Derry City Hall. Once again, the situation was com-
plicated by events in Portadown although cancellation of an Orange Order
parade scheduled for Derry in July eased tensions considerably. Linkage to
parades in other areas was still a sticking point, but the mayor, the head of
the Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Parades Commission
proved to be effective mediators and an agreement was eventually reached,
and the parade took place without violence in 1997 and 1998. In 1999,
relations in Derry were again tense, a re¬‚ection of the uncertain outcome of
the political negotiations over the implementation of the 1998 Good Friday
Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

Agreement. The BRG demanded face-to-face talks with the Apprentice
Boys and again insisted that the negotiations include a discussion of feeder
parades in other cities. Derry Catholics, the overwhelming majority in the
city, were hardly united behind the hard-line protesters, however, and
shortly after the August parade negotiations resumed and an agreement was
reached around the important Apprentice Boys December march.26
The Catholic dominated City Council was important in the process
that led to signi¬cant ritual rede¬nition of the issues in a way that
facilitated an outcome most people in both communities could accept. It
involved changes in the structure of the celebration including agree-
ments regarding the time of day and the number of marchers on the
walls, parade organization and routes, the music played, and control over
the bands that accompany the march. Certainly some of the changes
resulted from each side acknowledging the other™s most basic concerns,
although there is also pragmatic self-interest at work. At the symbolic
level, the new arrangements are a form of mutual acknowledgment and a
recognition that both communities could be able to share the city™s
sacred landscape.
Simpson and the Apprentice Boys in Derry have been far more prag-
matic than Orange Order leaders in Portadown in seeking an outcome
that would allow them to continue their parades. Their position,
including their willingness to engage in negotiations, allowed them to
gain signi¬cant support from nationalist politicians such as John Hume,
and Catholic political and business leaders in Derry who early on
endorsed the right to march. Perhaps because of this precedent, a few
years later Derry™s Orange Order leaders also engaged in negotiations
and agreed that the July 12 South Derry parades would not be held inside
the old city every year. An additional factor that seems to have con-
tributed to tension reduction in Derry is the willingness of the Apprentice
Boys to monitor the conduct of parade participants, especially band
members in those parts of the parade route where explosive incidents are
most likely. While observers suggest that some improvement is still
possible, especially in connection with alcohol, their taking responsibility
for owning the problem and training people to carry out the stewarding
has helped gain signi¬cant support from Derry™s Catholics for the

The agreement included moving the parade to a date earlier in the month so that the
downtown, mainly Catholic, merchants would not have to close on a Saturday right
before Christmas.

Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

right to march (Bryan and Jarman 2000; Jarman 2003). In 2003, Garvan
O™Doherty, a Derry business leader, told the Belfast Telegraph,
˜˜Undoubtedly Derry produced a template that should be used across
Northern Ireland. This year has seen a new maturity in thinking across
the marching issue. It is no longer a doomsday dreaded by both
communities each summer™™ (Brett 2003). The Irish Times rejoiced that
12,000 marchers participated in a peaceful parade three months later
(Jackson 2003).
The negotiations in Derry are signi¬cant in that they allowed the
Apprentice Boys with the support of the City Council to rede¬ne their
celebration as part of a broader, more inclusive cultural festival focusing
on the city™s history. This joint recognition of both Protestant and
Catholic traditions in the city provided on-going space for a further
easing of tensions, and since 2000 despite the political deadlock over
political arrangements in Belfast, the August and December parades have
taken place without signi¬cant problems. The festival, partially ¬nanced
through municipal funds, has expanded to include an exhibition at City
Hall, a bluegrass festival, talks on the city™s history including one by a
Catholic historian, contests involving both Protestant and Catholic
schoolchildren, and a street fair. While there are still plenty of tensions
and unresolved issues around the Apprentice Boys™ parades, the lines of
cleavage in the city have been blurred a bit and the deep threats to,
or attacks upon, group identity associated with the marches have dimi-
nished as each side has clari¬ed its needs and acknowledged those of the
other side.

Signed agreements between long-standing opponents, such as Protestants
and Catholics in Northern Ireland, Jews and Palestinians in the Middle
East, or whites and blacks in South Africa are only one step in a peace
process. Implementing agreements requires further negotiation around
substantive interests, but it cannot neglect the importance of articulating
more inclusive narratives and rituals emphasizing the parties™ shared
needs and common experiences.
Where cultural performances and celebrations have been central to
building and strengthening within-group identity and boundaries,
developing more inclusive narratives and ritual practices that lower per-
ceived threat is not easy. Long-term hostile relationships emphasize
Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

incompatibilities that strengthen group boundaries and ignore, or even
actively reject, what the communities have in common, and the symbolic
landscape has little that is shared (Bryan and McIntosh 2005). In this
context, modifying divergent worldviews is no simple matter. Differ-
ences often assume a moral quality and group members who fail to
observe the accepted boundaries between their group and the opposition
often become the objects of verbal or physical harassment.
Parade disputes in Northern Ireland show how closely intertwined
cultural and political expressions can be. Loyal Order parades that were
once powerful statements of support for the state have now become
contexts for Loyalist political mobilization, protest against the rede¬ned
political order, and a source of Protestant division. The post-1994
transformation in the politics of parading is also associated with highly
divergent between- and within-group messages and meanings. Externally,
some Unionists use parading as a form of strident communication to
assert a politics of opposition and protest to both Irish nationalists and the
British government. At the same time, beneath their strident messages,
there is often a weakness and vulnerability that makes dialogue and
engagement with Republican residents™ groups dif¬cult. In asserting what
the Loyal Orders consider their inalienable rights to assemble, there is
actually a keen recognition that attaining this goal is dependent upon
their ability to negotiate with the Parades Commission and the nationalist
community, something that many Loyalists ¬nd humiliating. As a forum
for expressing competing values and ¬ssures within unionism, parades
with their history of pageantry, symbolism, and political speechmaking
offer a very public look into alternative unionist political narratives and
perceived fears ( Jarman 2003).
Unionists and Nationalists often describe parades as unchanging tra-
ditions. Yet the reality is that they have changed many times in response
to new political contexts ( Jarman, 1997; Bryan, 2000; Fraser, 2000a).
These changes in ritual expressions re¬‚ect the external face of internal
political relations within unionism and among Unionists, Nationalists,
and the British and Irish governments. While professing unity, competing
Protestant groups symbolically make claims about who is best suited to
protect the community. The exclusive banners, uniforms, instruments,
songs, and insignias visible in parades are threatening to Catholics and
the cyclical tension between the two communities during the ˜˜marching
season™™ puts politics on the back burner and threatens constructive dia-
logue around substantive issues. Despite a decline in participation among
Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

both marchers and spectators at a number of major parades (Bryan 2003;
Edwards 2003), the electoral successes in 2003 and 2004 of Paisley™s DUP
with its emphasis on cultural unionism suggests that strong Loyalist
appeals continue to resonate with many Protestants.
There is little inherent in the parades themselves that is necessarily
provocative.27 Rather, it is contextually de¬ned meanings that the sym-
bols and rituals evoke for Loyalists and Republicans that make them so
powerful. Yet, even small markers of difference such as the colors orange
and green are easily politicized during the marching season. At a 2003
July 12 parade, for example, an African vendor selling silver jewelry
incurred the wrath of marchers because her wares included bracelets with
green stones. ˜˜That Fenian junk shouldn™t be sold here™™, she was told in
no uncertain terms (Irish Times 2003b).28
As psychocultural dramas unfold, they reveal important fault lines
among groups and identify both the speci¬c interests around which ethnic
con¬‚icts are waged and the deeper identity dynamics at work that often
make it so hard to ¬nd effective redressive mechanisms to settle these
con¬‚icts constructively. In addition, the expression of these differences in
moralistic rights language means it is especially dif¬cult to devise prag-
matic solutions since rights are hard to compromise and hurting an
opponent often becomes more important than minimizing one™s own
Turner™s idea that effective redress of such con¬‚icts requires perfor-
mance of public ritual is fully consistent with what psychoculturally
oriented theorists such as Kelman, Montville, and Volkan propose. Ritual
enactment of narratives is often exclusive but when ritual becomes more
inclusive it can connect people across groups and encourage the devel-
opment of multiple identities as the parties sense that if an opponent gains
something of value it necessarily means that their own side has lost.
Rede¬nition of a con¬‚ict in ways that permit a group to understand that
acknowledging another™s identity does not mean denying their own is not
easy to achieve. In Derry, this has occurred to some extent along with a
Bryan (personal communication) has described the very different atmosphere at Orange
Order parades in county Donegal, a county in the Irish Republic, just across the border
from Northern Ireland.
The signi¬cance of particular symbols is, of course, arbitrary and their signi¬cance is
de¬ned contextually. The Battle of the Boyne, for example, and even the Glorious
Revolution of 1688, are not signi¬cant events for many people in England. However, in
Northern Ireland, children learn their importance, and the symbols associated with them,
early in life.

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

signi¬cant deescalation of tension and a decrease in violent incidents
through an innovative, negotiated redesign of a ritual that helped the
parties develop more or less mutually acceptable arrangements around
parades that lowered mutual fears. The new ritual and revised narratives
emphasize what groups, even those in con¬‚ict, share, and offer some
reassurance that future relationships will be less threatening than past
ones while pointing toward some common understandings, a sense of
joint fate, and a partially shared symbolic landscape.
It is not completely clear to me why the Apprentice Boys of Derry were
so much more willing, and able, to engage in negotiations than the
Orange Order in Portadown. It is not the different histories of the two
areas that account for the different outcomes, for while Portadown in
County Armagh is close to where sectarian tensions have historically been
high, the same can be said for Derry. In asking people in Northern Ire-
land to explain the difference in the two outcomes, I have received a
variety of answers, all of which are plausible, but none of which is fully
satisfying. Many suggest that the Apprentice Boys™ leadership is more
pragmatic and ¬‚exible than that of the Orange Order. Surely this is the
case, but to me this is more of a description than an explanation. It also
ignores the fact that while the Apprentice Boys have shown great
¬‚exibility over their Derry parades, in disputes over parades in Belfast
their pragmatism is less apparent. Others have suggested that the differ-
ences result from the fact that in Derry, Protestants are a minority, while
in Portadown they are still a dominant majority. However, it is not hard
to ¬nd cases where minorities are completely uncompromising and
majorities generous and ¬‚exible.
The explanation that is most plausible to me emphasizes that while Derry
was a divided, tense city in the 1970s, in the past twenty-¬ve years, political
relationships in and around the city have evolved considerably creating
conditions facilitating productive con¬‚ict mitigation. Particularly under
John Hume™s in¬‚uence, there has been considerable cross-community
dialogue and ¬‚exibility that has become institutionalized in Derry while
Portadown has remained bitterly divided (Mulvihill and Ross 1999). Local
Catholic and Protestant leaders in Derry found ways to talk to each other
and the Derry City Council has engaged in power sharing for some time.
In Derry, a good deal of civic involvement by business and other local
leaders was manifest in their engagement as mediators in the negotiations
that led the successful negotiations over the Apprentice Boys™ parades

Loyalist parades in Northern Ireland

(Kelly and Nan 1998).29 As a result, it was clear that there were many
Catholics who supported the Apprentice Boys™ right to march and who, at
the same time, worked to address the concerns of the Bogside Residents™
Association. There was also some signi¬cant ¬‚exibility from
the Apprentice Boys, who were willing to enter into dialogue and to
monitor unacceptable behavior in their parades, to ban the display of
paramilitary insignias as well as the public consumption of alcohol
( Jarman 2003).
This explanation is similar to Crain™s (1968) effort to explain why some
southern cities, such as Atlanta, in the United States, desegregated their
schools with little overt con¬‚ict and violence while others, such as New
Orleans, were the sites of bitter, and sometimes violent, con¬‚ict. He
found that variables such as the proportion of blacks in the city had little
predictive power. What did matter, however, was the engagement of civic
leaders in the process “ as was the case in Derry. In cities where business
and other civic leaders played a signi¬cant role in working out deseg-
regation plans, there was relatively little overt con¬‚ict, while in cities
where these leaders were uninvolved, the management of the issue was far
less constructive. This points to the importance of civil society NGO
activities in creating space for dialogue and compromise that lowers
tension and moves con¬‚ict toward a constructive outcome (Kriesberg
2003; Varshney 2002).
Jarman (2003) contends that the regularization of Parades Commission
procedures and rulings available to assist negotiations at different levels
provided another important mechanism of con¬‚ict mitigation. Although
the Parades Commission has not always had an easy time, it has helped
create new norms regarding violence and new ways to manage parading
con¬‚icts that provide alternatives to public standoffs and violence. The
Parade Commission™s participation as an authoritative third party has
helped some disputing parties de¬ne common interests and get their most
basic needs met “ for the Loyal Orders this is the right to march, and for
the Catholic communities the right to be free from humiliation and
intimidation. To do this, the Parades Commission created ground rules
that have altered expectations and behaviors on all sides to deescalate
con¬‚ict and reduce violence. Jarman adds that part of the key to doing this

This cross-community engagement also extended to civic groups such as the Peace and
Reconciliation Group (PRG) in Derry that has long worked to increase effective
communications and to lower tensions in the city (Mulvihill and Ross 1999).

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

effectively requires ˜˜acknowledging the importance of cultural, ritual, and
symbolic events and processes within the construction and maintenance
of ethnic identities™™ ( Jarman 2003).
Although the outcome of the Portadown con¬‚ict is not yet clear, what
we can say is that to be successful an outcome must include symbols and
rituals that communicate some minimal level of respect and mutual
acknowledgment to the parties which to date has been absent. However,
to the extent that the Orange Order is concerned about its decline, they
have a clear pragmatic motive for changing their position on negotiations
with residents™ groups and the Parades Commission. Repeating old offers
through an approach to the British government in 2003 and 2004 might
have been a public relations ploy or an initial step toward real talks. If the
offer is sincere, it would put the burden on Republicans to take a reci-
procal step, for it is clear that while the Parades Commission requires
signi¬cant communication between the parties, it has, in a number of
cases, refused Republicans a veto over parades they dislike.30
Because the issues in parade disputes are primarily symbolic expres-
sions of the relations between the communities, any mutually acceptable
outcome will have to attend to each community™s powerful emotional
concerns embedded in their narratives of the con¬‚ict. There is no single
right way to accomplish this. Rather, while there are many possible for-
mulas, those that are good enough are those that a signi¬cant portion of
each community can accept. As the contrasting cases of Portadown and
Derry demonstrate, cultural performances can harden positions or can be
recast in ways that provide mutual acknowledgment and more inclusive
expression that can diminish fears and reduce overt con¬‚ict.

Republicans have been far more successful than Unionists at public relations on this issue.
Given the indication that the Orange Order following the peaceful 2003 parades might be
willing to engage in talks, Gerry Adams quickly emphasized the right of Orangemen to
march and the ˜˜responsibility of Nationalists and Republicans to hear and understand the
Orange perspective™™ (UTV 2003).


Where is Barcelona? Imagining the nation
without a state

Ethnic con¬‚ict is often framed around the most visible and mundane
aspects of everyday life “ customs such as food, clothing, and speech.
These external manifestations of identity are readily contested when one
group seeks to control the behavior of another. While the speci¬c con-
tentious behaviors that serve as focal points of contestation are rarely
threatening in themselves, it is how they are interpreted that really mat-
ters, as each side understands action through psychocultural narratives
replete with their version of the past and vision of the future.
In the contemporary world, language often marks the identity of the
ethnic community or nation.1 Consequently, we often hear strong views
about the need for of¬cial national languages and the importance of
citizens speaking a single language despite the existence of many bi-
and multilingual people and states.2 Why this is the case is a central
question in this chapter. In considering the question of language use, we
address how countries make decisions about what is to be their of¬cial
language or languages; what is used in government institutions, educa-
tional systems, and public signs, and how these decisions are implemented.
These issues can be, but are not necessarily, highly controversial. Even in

The nation is made up of the people who share a cultural and political identity and the
state is a governmental unit. In some cases nations and states are coterminous. Much
more commonly states, or countries, consist of people with more than one national
Although neither the data nor the de¬nition is precise several people (and web sites) have
suggested to me that more than half of the people in the world are bi or multilingual.

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

places such as the United States where language issues seem relatively
unproblematic to many, intense con¬‚ict can erupt over language ques-
tions as is seen in the widespread calls for ˜˜English Only™™ laws and attacks
on bilingual education in recent years.
The question of of¬cial languages is a relatively recent one in the world
for the simple reason that until 1800 few states cared or could enforce
what language people living within its boundaries spoke. Since the French
Revolution, however, the rise of states as representatives of the nation,
democratic popularly elected governments, the spread of education, and
the rise of mass media have radically changed the relationship between
language and politics. Rulers, especially those who are elected, need to
communicate with their constituents and it is obvious that this is easier
when they all speak the same language. Likewise, mass-based public
education became a responsibility of government which meant that it was
also an opportunity not only to standardize what people learned but to use
a single language as the medium of instruction as a way of building
attachment to the state.
While we often assume that the present capacity of citizens in Eur-
opean states to understand their country™s language is centuries old, this
is seldom the case. As Eugen Weber points out in his classic study,
Peasants into Frenchmen, as late as 1860 only about half of the people
living in France spoke French as their ¬rst language and there were
many who did not understand it (1976: 70). The development of uni-
versal primary education in France under the Third Republic changed
the situation dramatically, so that by 1914, on the eve of World War I,
French was close to being the universal ¬rst language of its citizens and
the local languages that had been favored three generations earlier
receded in importance. Weber argues that the low con¬‚ict over language
in France during this time was due to the power of the centralized
government and the incentives for learning French. This pattern is
not uncommon and in many places the state emerged prior to the
development of either a strong national consciousness or a shared cul-
ture and language. In the former Soviet Union, despite all the advantages
that accrued to Russian speakers, Karklins (1986) reports that in the
years just before its breakup only about half of the primary students in
the country attended schools in which Russian was the language of
Upon attaining independence in the post World War II period, former
Asian and African colonies needed to make choices concerning language
Where is Barcelona?

for use. They could adopt the language of the former colonial ruler or
choose a local language. The choice was often complicated. The colonial
languages enhanced communication with outsiders and were the languages
with which the bureaucracy and school systems were already familiar so
that if it was maintained administrative procedures would need less
rewriting and school curricula would be readily available. At the same
time, symbolically there was great attraction in adopting a non-Western,
indigenous language as the language of the independent state, an issue that
was complicated in situations when there was more than one plausible
choice and a decision to adopt one language over another would potentially
exacerbate ethnic or regional tensions.
New states made a wide range of decisions in an effort to balance the
needs for effective communication, education, and political unity.
Decisions were often pragmatic and resulted in far more functional
multilingualism than of¬cial state policies reveal. In North Africa, both
Arabic and French are used; in East Africa, English and Swahili are pan-
ethnic languages while speci¬c regional (once called tribal) languages are
also used. The case of India is particularly instructive. Both Hindi and
English were India™s of¬cial languages at independence in 1947 although
they were used in quite different contexts and for very different purposes.
During the 1950s there was great pressure to recognize regional lan-
guages and intense, sometimes violent, con¬‚icts about these choices in
multilingual regions. The result was a redrawing of regional (state)
boundaries and the adoption of a regional language in each non-Hindi
speaking state as a third of¬cial language in that state. As a result, Laitin
reports that less than 3 percent of the Indian population has as its pri-
mary language one that is different from one of the of¬cial languages in
their state and even in those cases minorities have the right to an edu-
cation in their own language (Laitin 1997: 282“87). He suggests that a ˜˜3
plus or minus one outcome™™ might provide a model for language policy
in Europe where in a few years citizens might well learn their country™s
language, a common language such as English, and a regional language
(Laitin 1997).
Contemporary states generally have of¬cial language policies, but
language adoption can be complicated and certain language choices, like
other policies, are made and remade. Given the emotional salience of
the question, these issues are not often settled easily and quickly. In
addition, new political circumstances often reopen questions of language

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

policy and practice in ways that can be highly con¬‚ictual. For example,
consider the following recent cases:

 Some people ¬nd they cannot read or speak their country™s of¬cial
language after a sudden regime change. This occurred, for example,
in the Baltic countries “ Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania “ after they
achieved independence in 1991. During the Soviet period, Russian
speakers in these countries generally made little effort to learn the
local language believing it was of little use to them. Yet to become
citizens of the new state, in a place where they had lived for a long
time, and might even have been born, they had to pass a test in the
language they formerly eschewed (Laitin 1998).
 Laws are passed that prohibit merchants from posting public signs in
any language other than the one approved by law. This sort of
legislation has been passed in many places including Montreal; the
Quebec government created a Commission for the Protection of the
French language that decreed in 1983 that all commercial signs had
to include French, with the French letters at least twice the size of
those of any other language. For a time in Slovakia the law
prohibited the Hungarian minority from posting street signs in
Hungarian even in areas where Hungarian speakers were in the
majority. Local governments in the US have passed similar ˜˜English
only™™ laws regarding public signage.
 Language pro¬ciency in a regional language becomes a job
requirement so that civil servants (and some people in the private
sector) who have held jobs for years, even if they are grandfathered
in their positions, are likely to feel isolated, and people from other
regions suddenly become unquali¬ed to work in the region. This
change in requirements and/or expectations is widespread and is
found in such places as Quebec, Catalonia, many parts of Central
Europe and the former Soviet Union, and parts of South Asia when
regional languages become of¬cial or co-of¬cial (Woolard and
Gahng 1990: 316)

Language use is often the most visible, but certainly not the only,
marker of identity and one that readily becomes the focal point of tension
and ethnic con¬‚ict. This should not surprise us, for language use, non-
use, and misuse communicates a wide range of public and private, subtle
and not so subtle messages regarding power, control, recognition, and

Where is Barcelona?

legitimation as states adopt of¬cial languages and try to control what
languages are spoken in public (and even private) contexts.
More often than not, language is a core aspect of identity and when
identity is contested, language is a readily available weapon. It follows then
that language con¬‚icts will sometimes be very intense. For majority groups,
the most apparent reason for pushing a particular language “ typically their
own “ has to do with their desire to establish political control and the fear
that cultural distinctiveness is evidence of a weak political commitment to
the state. For minorities, centralized language policies readily increase their
vulnerability and threaten their identity. Furthermore, if Kymlicka (1998)
is correct in his hypothesis that cultural distinctiveness cannot be main-
tained without distinct governmental and other institutions in which a
language is regularly used, abandoning minority or regional languages will,
understandably, produce high resistance.
Sustaining a societal culture in the modern world is not a matter of holding ethnic
festivals, or having a few classes taught in one™s mother tongue as a child. It is a
matter of creating and sustaining a set of public institutions that will enable a
minority group to participate in the modern world in its own language.
(Kymlicka 1998: 34)

Unless commitment is high, such a task is not easy even given the
existence of high resources, territorial contiguity, the skill needed to
maintain a language, and favorable political conditions. At the same time,
because language is easiest to control in formal public contexts, such as
of¬ces, schools, or public signage, government control is often incom-
plete and minorities can resist language standardization and use their own
language to express political and cultural opposition and to mobilize
collective action.
This chapter examines ethnic con¬‚icts in which language use is a
central focus and explores the importance of issues of recognition,
legitimation and control underlying them. Identity con¬‚icts over issues
of linguistic and cultural autonomy can escalate into violence, as in the
case of Sri Lanka where a con¬‚ict in which what initially seemed to some
observers like a language con¬‚ict escalated into a much wider civil war.
Not all language options come down to mutually exclusive choices.
Multilingualism, which can take a variety of forms, is often an outcome
that symbolically and practically meets the central needs of all the
parties, as in Quebec and Catalonia. In both there has been little or
no violence in recent years, and they afford us a chance to examine

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

culturally rooted con¬‚icts that have been more or less constructively man-
aged despite the participants™ strong feelings. The next sections
brie¬‚y explore the polarization that has escalated to on-going violence in Sri
Lanka, and the polarization in Quebec that has led to a good deal of ill-will
and stalemate. The next one turns to Catalonia, ¬rst discussed in Chapter 1,
where a number of substantive and ritual actions have produced a successful
accommodation in the context of a highly decentralized post-Franco Spanish
state. The conclusion suggests the importance of normalizing the narrative
of linguistic minorities as small nations without a state so that they feel
connected to other peoples in the same situation (Keating 2001).

Language, con¬‚ict escalation, and containment
It is easy for con¬‚icts to escalate around questions of language policy when one
group feels it confers unfair privilege on another. For example, in Sri Lanka, a
bitter con¬‚ict in which over 60,000 people have died since 1984 ¬rst emerged
as a political con¬‚ict over language in the mid 1950s. In the early years after
independence from Britain in 1948, the country™s Sinhalese majority felt that
the minority Tamils had been relatively favored during colonial rule in terms
of civil service and university positions and this continued in the ¬rst decade
after independence. Although the Portuguese and Dutch colonized the island
in the sixteenth century, it was under British colonial rule in the nineteenth
century that Sinhalese national movements in the form of Sinhala revivalism


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